Friday, August 20


Steve Mitchell keeps plugging away at the USDA's web of deceit surrounding BSE testing. His latest find is that they failed to test, or ineptly tested, nearly 500 suspect cows over the past two years -- including some in categories considered most likely to be infected. As he points out, this means "it may never be known with certainty whether these animals were infected with the deadly disease." And as for the lies, "Department officials said these animals were not included in the agency's final tally of mad cow tests, but the records, obtained by UPI under the Freedom of Information Act, indicate at least some of them were counted." More specifically, USDA spokeswoman Julie Quick told UPI, "None of those (untested animals or ones with the wrong portion of the brain collected) were counted in official sampling." However, Mitchell notes, it would have been necessary to include some of the untested animals in order to arrive at the USDA's final tally of 19,990 animals tested in fiscal year 2002, as stated in a Jan. 15, 2003, news release.

It's become clear that the whole strategy is simply to paper over the unsettling truth until after Election Day, as every move by the USDA is another foot-dragging, smoke-and-mirrors exercise, sometimes carried to absurd lengths. "Although UPI initially received the testing records last January, the USDA refused to release a key that would help decipher the meaning of several obscure codes and acronyms. After several more months of requests to obtain the key from both the Freedom of Information Office and the agency's Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, the USDA finally released the key in late May, but insisted it was not legally required to do so." All of this would be hilarious if people's lives weren't at stake - people, perhaps, like the unnamed person with a mysterious disease that looks like Mad Cow, but experts are assuring us isn't. "Experts who are studying the strain, discovered at Harborview Medical Center this summer, are awaiting blood tests being conducted at Cleveland's National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center, the Seattle Times said. Those tests should be completed in September. 'The disease is clearly not the human form of mad-cow, nor does it appear to be Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a closely related condition,' said Dr. Pierluigi Gambetti, director of the center. 'We really are puzzled at this time,' he said. 'This is unusual.' Let's hope it stays that way - but with the USDA in charge, hope may be our last resort.

UPDATE 8/23: Still more USDA prevarication: A USDA document from 1990 obtained by UPI acknowledges British cows as young as 22 months were infected with mad cow. USDA officials, in the wake of the December case of mad cow disease, have insisted it would be unlikely to find the deadly disease in cows under 30 months of age, but the 1990 document, entitled "Emergency Programs Alert" and issued May 1990, describes the outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom and states: "Age of affected cattle at onset ranged from 1 year 10 months to 15 years." The document urges USDA veterinarians to collect a brain sample from any U.S. cattle showing signs of the disease and does not specify any limitations on age.

Thursday, August 19


Even if it weren't for the clear fact that there will not be enough water in the world for our descendants to enjoy a Western meat-centered diet (as World Water Week experts declared), there's still a clear imperative to move toward plant-based eating. A federal panel has just upped the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables from 5 - 9 previously to 5 - 13 now. And as USA Today points out, the more plant foods you consume, the more they help each other to fight disease: "A growing body of research shows that, once inside the body, fruits and vegetables spring into the role of superheroes, fighting cancer and other diseases in at least eight simultaneous ways. And, like the Superfriends, they seem to work better as a team." And again, "[M]ost experts agree that the body needs a variety of these phytochemicals - there are more than 25,000 of them - to stay in top form. That's why so many nutritionists no longer stress individual 'power foods,' but instead promote a 'plant-based' diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Preliminary research indicates these foods bring out the best in each other and magnify their protective effects." Additionally, a six-year study found that adults who ate more fruit put on less weight and body fat than those who ate less of it. The Reuters article points out that "Although high-fat, Atkins-style diets have been advocated for weight loss, the new study provides evidence that over the long-term, relatively high fat intake promotes weight gain." And to promote eating plant foods, you might want to enter Dole's "Meatless Mondays" Recipe Contest. The recipes must, according to the Web site, "1) use at least two DOLE products (proof of purchase is not required), 2) contain no meat or meat products" but then again... wait for it... "(fish and seafood are acceptable ingredients)" because they're not meat, of course. Still, it would be great if a vegan recipe wins, so get yours in by November First!

UPDATE 8/23: Study: Americans don't eat enough produce - "More than 85 percent of consumers are not eating the federally recommended minimum of five servings of produce a day, according to an AC Nielsen poll of 2,472 people. And nearly 60 percent think eating one to four servings is enough for a healthy diet; 20 percent said one or two servings is enough."

ALSO:"Meat-eaters soak up the world's water: Governments may have to persuade people to eat less meat because of increasing demands on water supplies."


The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus is facing a federal investigation amid allegations that it allowed a young lion to die in a sweltering animal train crossing the Mojave Desert and then tried to keep key information from the government. Frank Hagan, a veteran Ringling Brothers employee, said that circus lawyers told him and others familiar with the incident not to talk with USDA officials who were coming to the circus train to ask questions. And the Barnum & Bailey deaths continue to mount: "On Friday, Ringling spokesman Johnson contacted The Washington Post to report that an 8-month-old elephant named Ricardo was euthanized at the center last week (8/7) after falling off a low platform and fracturing its two hind legs." Despite this clear pattern of abuse, contrary to the predictions in the article, the news seemingly had no effect in Denver, whose residents went for the "tradition" argument over the "humanity and common sense" argument on August 10th.

Wednesday, August 18


OK, that weekend was nice & long, wasn't it? But now I'm back for a while, and I'll warn you that the next few posts will be a little out-of-date, as I'm still catching up. Here's one that was leftover from before I left: The kidney function of people with type 2 diabetes seems to be improved by dietary soy protein, with the added benefit that their levels of "good" cholesterol also go up a bit. It's an interesting study, because here we can't just assume the soy protein was displacing the bad effects of animal protein: "The goal, Erdman explained, was to have the men replace part of their usual protein intake with the soy or milk protein; however, the patients failed to follow the diet instructions and instead added the protein powders to their normal routine."